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The Political Participation in France

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Introduction: 2017 saw one of the most surreal and unconventional elections in France’s history. The two major parties Les Republicans (Republican Party) and Le Parti socialiste (Socialist Party) lost both the presidential election and the two-round parliamentary elections. That is a clear sign that French politics has changed at a fundamental level. For this reason, this research aims to examine what could have been the factors and signals leading up to that turning point of French politics. This study’s main argument is inspired by an academic paper of Daniel Stokemer and Abdelkarim Amengay. In their article “The voters of the FN underr Jean-Marie Le Pen and Marine Le Pen: Continuity or change?”, Amengay and Stokemer claim that young French voters are becoming more conservative by voting for the French far-right party Le Front National (FN).

The Independent also confirms that nearly half of young French voters backed Marine Le Pen – the FN presidential candidate. In their conclusion, the two writers make some explanations for this. First, a generational change in the party leadership from the old Le Pen to the young, female and charismatic one might have made the FN appear more attractive. This way, French politics has shifted not because of changes in political ideologies but rather because of certain political personalities and parties. However, the authors also have another hypothesis, that is, younger voters who lack stable political ideologies and who might have problems with the fast moving globalized and Europeanized world, might turn to easy solutions carried in Le Pen’s rhetoric. If this is the case, then we might expect to see French politics moving towards the right, as young voters find their support from right-wing politicians who favor nationalization, or stricter immigration control. My main goal of this research is to see whether an empirical support for the FN in the 2012 presidential elections could be extrapolated to the whole population.

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Thus, my hypothesis is: Are French younger generations becoming more conservative? This brief report is a built-up from Russel J. Dalton’s findings mentioned in his two books “Citizen Politics” and “The Good Citizen”. Acknowledging that Dalton’s studies of French politics are only up to 2008, I have used data from the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES), and the European Survey (ESS) on the French 2012 presidential elections. I try to utilize the same measurements of political participation as well as variables used by Dalton to provide the most related analyses based on Dalton’s theories and findings. Unfortunately, data for the 2017 presidential elections are not yet publicized and due to a lack of time, I cannot have access to the 2017 database.

This article proceeds as follows, in the next section I give a brief literature review of the three academic references I used to hypothize my research question, namely Dalton’s “The Good Citizen”, Wattenberg’s ” Is voting for young people”, Stokemer and Amenga’s “The voters of the FN under Jean-Marie Le Pen and Marine Le Pen: Continuity or change”. I will then, introduce the general patterns of political participation in France in 2012, repeating the models that Dalton uses. In the fourth section, I present the regression models, which I use to test my hypothesis. In the penultimate part, I discuss the applicability of Dalton’s theories to France’s political behaviors in 2012. And finally, I will conclude and provide some avenues for future research. Moreover, I also take into account Wattenberg’s theories on generational differences in political participation to have a general look about France’s patterns of political engagement.

In his book “Is voting for young people?” (2012) Wattenberg suggests that there is a decline in young people’s participation in politics and they are now tuning out of politics. Comparing to older generations, young people are trading political information for entertainment such as TV shows and video games. Consequently, the voter turnout has been decreasing; moreover, he insists that instead of embracing the prospect of young people getting involved in politics by unconventional methods as substitutive methods for conventional methods as Russel J. Dalton describes in his book named “The Good Citizen”. Wattenberg maintains that young people only get engaged in new forms of participation such as volunteering, doing some communal projects seasonally, for their own sakes during college applying periods. Finally, he concludes that although in most cases youth participation increases, that of older generations goes up even more significantly. Therefore, simply put, young people are less likely to engage in politics in general, not just in conventional ways. (Wattenberg, M.P. Is voting for young people?)

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